Research Area(s)

Marine biology and vertebrate zoology with an emphasis on sea turtle ecology, behavior, habitat use, and conservation.


Dr. Mansfield directs the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group (MTRG). Her research program focuses on sea turtle biology, ecology, behavior, and conservation across all sea turtle life stages—from eggs to adults. The MTRG provides field-based educational and research opportunities to students, and scientific advisory service to local, state, and international science and management entities. Dr. Mansfield’s field sites include long-term nesting beach and coastal juvenile sea turtle research programs within Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge and the Indian River Lagoon in central Florida, and oceanic “lost years” tracking work in the Gulf of Mexico, North and South Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.

Sea turtle reproductive output: The Marine Turtle Research Group (MTRG) has conducted research on the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (ACNWR), adjacent beaches, and in coastal and inland waters for almost 40 years. Data collected by the MTRG were instrumental in establishing the ACNWR in 1991 and a formal partnership agreement was established with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2016. The refuge and nearby coastal habitats support the largest loggerhead sea turtle rookery in the Western Hemisphere and among the most important green turtle nesting habitat in North America. Dr. Mansfield’s lab conducts daytime and nighttime sea turtle nesting surveys out of a field station located in the ACNWR in Melbourne Beach, FL. Her lab offers a summer internship at the coast open to UCF undergraduate students.

Coastal juvenile turtle assessments: For over 40 years, the MTRG has conducted in-water surveys of juvenile sea turtles that are found foraging in the Indian River Lagoon, an important developmental habitat for loggerhead and green turtles. Dr. Mansfield’s coastal in-water work includes monitoring the health of sea turtle juveniles found in the Indian River Lagoon and Port Canaveral, FL with projects examining disease ecology and health, animal movement, sea turtle diet, and impacts of harmful algal blooms on turtles.

Discovering the sea turtle “lost years”: Dr. Mansfield pioneered satellite tracking methods for small, fast-growing turtles found offshore. She has a long-term offshore in-water research program in the Northern Gulf of Mexico where she and her students satellite track very small, oceanic stage sea turtles captured in the region associated with the BP oil spill. This is an on-going project that provides the world’s first in situ tracking data on wild-caught oceanic (“lost years”) juvenile turtles.

Sea turtles are highly migratory marine animals and sea turtle conservation is a global issue. The MTRG participates in a number of global initiatives to better understand early sea turtle behavior and dispersal during their “lost years” offshore. The MTRG maintains international scientific partnerships with Projecto TAMAR in Brazil and is a Collaborative Partner with the Sargasso Sea Commission.